How Old Is The Oldest Galaxy In The Universe?

As technology has become more advanced, scientists have been able to discover galaxies that stretch further back towards the beginning of the universe and the Big Bang.

We have all wondered how old the universe is or even how big it is. Well scientists take these questions seriously and spend their lives trying to find out the answers.

In this article, we will talk all about galaxy’s, including the oldest galaxy in the universe and how old our galaxy is compared to other galaxies.

Source: New Atlas

The Oldest Galaxy In The Universe

The oldest galaxy in the universe, also happens to be the farthest galaxy away we have ever seen in the universe. This galaxy was discovered in March 2016 by Professor Nobunari Kashikawa and his team of astronomers in Tokyo.

The GN-z11 galaxy is believed to have formed just over 400 million years after the Big Bang. Not only is GN-z11 the oldest galaxy in the universe but it is also the farthest galaxy away from us.

This galaxy was originally thought to be further away than due to the distance limit of the Hubble Telescope. This is due to the fact that the universe is constantly expanding, the light from this galaxy has travelled 32 billion light years to reach us.

So when we are looking at this galaxy, we see GN-z11 at 13.4 billion years old, but it has traveled 32 billion light years for us to be able to see it. So when we are looking at this universe, we are seeing how it looked 400 million years after the Big Bang.

The discovery of this galaxy is incredibly important, as it gives scientists a new insight into the early formation of our universe. It is said that this galaxy was formed when light was first filling the Cosmo. The universe would have only been 3% old as it is today.

Professor Kashikawa and his team measured the red-shift of this galaxy, to be able to tell us how old it is. Red-shift refers to the way that light stretches out. The further the light travels, the redder the light becomes on the images from the telescope.

GN-z11 is only 1/25 the size of our own galaxy, but new stars form about twenty times as fast as in our own galaxy.

How Old Is Our Galaxy Compared To Others?

Our galaxy, known as the Milky Way, has a diameter of 100,000 to 200,000 light years. It is also estimated that the Milky Way could contain up to 400 billion stars and possibly that amount of planets too. The Milky Way is believed to be about 13.51 billion years old.

Our universe is believed to be almost 14 billion years old and most galaxies are between 10 to 13.6 billion years old. Hence most galaxies are created or beginning to form when the universe was still quite young.

The newest galaxy that we are aware of, was formed only 500 million years ago. Some astronomers believe that some galaxies started to form as little as one billion years after the Big Bang.

There are a few galaxies that we know of which are much older than our own, like GN-z11. However scientists believe that there could be as many as one hundred billion galaxies in the universe.

Compared to the galaxies that we know about and are aware of, the Milky Way is seen as one of the oldest galaxies. This has been discovered by scientists working out the ages of some of the stars in our galaxy.

Was The Milky Way The First Galaxy?

The Milky Way was one of the first galaxies in the universe. It is difficult to say what was the first galaxy overall, because it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how old things are. We have to look at other factors like the ages of stars that make up galaxies.

It has recently come to light that the Milky Way is one of the first galaxies to form but we can’t say it was the first in the universe overall.

In the past few decades astronomers have been using larger telescopes to try and answer questions about the beginning of the universe. While also trying to answer questions about the Dark Ages. This is a period in time, when nothing existed, there were no stars or galaxies. There are two ideas how galaxies were formed after this.

One theory is that galaxies began to form when clouds of gas and dust collapsed under their own gravitational pull, which then led to the formation of stars. Which then created the first galaxies.

Yet another theory says that when the universe was still young, it contained small lumps of matter which clumped together. These clumps then formed galaxies. However the galaxy formation doesn’t stop once it is created. It is constantly changing and evolving.

The Milky Way today is believed to contain smaller galaxies that it pulled in with its gravitational pull. These can be old or new galaxies. As the Milky Way is constantly moving, its gravitational pull brings in more galaxies. However this strong gravitational pull took a long time to build up.

Final Thoughts

The universe is an extremely complex and large place. It is almost 14 billions years old and scientists are learning something new about it everyday. As technology advances we are learning more about our own galaxies and others around us.

Our own galaxy, The Milky Way, is believed to be one of the first galaxies to have formed but there are some galaxies that are a bit older, by a couple of billion years.

New galaxies are still forming and as the galaxy is so vast, it is difficult to say with certainty what is the oldest galaxy in the universe. We believe it to be GN-z11, however this galaxy was only discovered in 2016.

As technology advances, we may find more galaxies of a similar age that can show us what the universe looked like when it was still so young. 

Gordon Watts
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